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Something Strange and Deadly Copyright 2012 by Susan Dennard All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Childrens Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Dennard, Susan. Something strange and deadly / Susan Dennard. p. cm. Summary: In an alternate nineteenth-century Philadelphia, Eleanor Fitt sets out to rescue her brother, who seems to have been captured by an evil necromancer in control of an army of UndeadProvided by publisher. ISBN 978-0-06-208326-5 [1. Brothers and sistersFiction. 2. DeadFiction. 3. Magic fiction. 4. Philadelphia (Pa.) History19th centuryFiction. 5. Horror stories.] I. Title. PZ7.D42492Som 2012 2011042114 [Fic]dc23 CIP AC Typography by Lissi Erwin 12 13 14 15 16 LP/RRDH 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 First Edition

Chapter Nineteen

This must be how mice feel when they run from
the hawk. The emptiness of the factory grounds and the open gate spurred me on. I had chosen this path, and now all I could do was follow it. Thank heavens the grass was still damp and soft from yesterdays rain; it soaked up the pounding of my feet. Though not enough that Daniel didnt hear me. He whirled around, his fists up, but at the sight of me, he blanched. Empress, I told you to stay, he hissed. His head twisted toward the gate. Your tools. I held up the wallet. I thought you needed them. He snatched it from my hand. Sakes alive . . . I thought Id dropped that in the field somewhere and the guards would

find it. He gazed at me. Thanksthough it was still mighty stupid. After several long moments of metal scratching on metal, he rolled his heel against the door and it inched open. Then his hand snaked out and he hauled me to him. We wedged through the narrow space of black, and then he eased the door shut. I told you to obey my orders, he murmured. Im sorry. I strained to see in the total darkness of the hut. You should be grateful, though. I am . . . honest, I am. Now shut pan, Empress. A yellow glow appeared, faintly illuminating Daniel and the immediate surroundings. I gaped at the light and waited for my eyes to adjust. The light came from a jar in Daniels hand, and whatever emitted the glow resembled a squirming mass of something alive. Is that light moving? Yeah. Glowworms. Cant risk fire near the dynamite. It was so clever, so typically clever of Daniel. His rough hand slid into mine. Come on, he murmured. Dont touch anything, and Ill find what we need. Looks like they rebuilt the warehouse exactly the same. We moved away from the door. I focused my attention on the ball of light and on my steady footsteps over the earth floor. Around me, I had the sensation of open space. I leaned close to Daniels ear as we walked. Whats in here? Tables. Its where they put the dynamite ingredients into

cartridges. Were going to the end where they load the finished stuff onto riverboatsthats where any complete dynamite will be. Whats in the other two huts then? The middle hut is where they make an absorbent that soaks up the nitroglycerin. And then in the last building they make the nitroglycerin. Thats what causes the dynamite to explode. He lifted his arms and spread them wide. My arm rose with his, our fingers still clasped, and the light of the glowworms beamed around the room. They brew it in huge vats, he said. All it takes is a teaspoon of the stuff to blow you to pieces, and theres hundreds of gallons in that building. The vats keep the nitroglycerin cool, so it doesnt explode. The safety of everything and everyone in that building depends on a thermometer. Seventy-two degrees. Nitroglycerins gotta stay at that temperature. The echo of our steps died, and we stopped our slow creep through the room. I realized we had reached the end of the building. Daniel raised the jar of glowworms and scanned the area. There. He pointed to a waist-high crate. The yellow light showed a label. stump What is it? I asked. Its dynamite for clearing farmland. He set the jar in my hand and tossed the empty sacks beside the box. And itll do perfectly. We need a hammer or A crowbar? I gestured to a metal rod set next to the crates.

Yep. Help me get this open. Soon, after many smothered grunts and much creaking wood, we had the crates top off. Inside, wrapped carefully in straw, was stick upon stick of explosive dynamite. They were small cylinders, no longer than my hand. How could so much power fit into something so tiny? It reminded me of Jie. You hold the bag open. Daniel pushed a sack into my hands. Ill put this stuff inside. How much are we taking? As much as we can carry. The minutes passed in silent packing until the bags were full. Each sack held twenty sticks of dynamite packed securely in paper and straw. We knelt to heft the lid back on the crate. Daniel suddenly froze midway. Dyou hear that? he whispered. I held my breath and listened. Then came a shout. Unmistakable. It was a mans cry of alarm, and he was outside the building. Shit. You left footprints, didnt you? Shit, shit. Daniel heaved the bags on top of the crates and shoved me into a narrow crevice between the boxes. Shit, shit, shit, Empress. My heart began to beat frantically in my ears. Whats going on? Shh. He set the jar of glowworms into my hand. Joseph was right to say I might need you. I do. You gotta get the bags, or at least one of em, back to the Exhibition. Ill distract the guards. If you cant get to the fence door, wade in the river. He

backed away from the faint light until he was part of the darkness. Im sorry, Eleanor. I promise Ill keep you safe. His footsteps thumped loudly away, as if he wanted to make as much noise as he could. I slid the jar of glowworms inside my shirt. It was all too fast for me to understand. What was Daniel doing? Was he turning himself in? Over my wild pulse, I barely heard the huts door swing open. There was a slapping thud like flesh hitting flesh. Then came shouts, feet scuffling on the dirt floor, grunts, more thuds, and finally calm. I cowered in my corner, my breathing so shallow and my heart racing so fast I thought I might pass out. I kept my shirtsleeve over my mouth to muffle the whimpers that threatened to escape. He broke my nose! yelled a whiny voice. Shut pan and get him outside, rumbled another voice. I aint going nowhere Daniels words were cut off by crunching bone and a desperate howl. He was hurt. A cry writhed in my throat, but I bit my tongue until the pain filled my brain. Youre in for it now, said the whiny man. I reckon you saw somethin you shouldnt have seen, and we cant have you tellin no one. So dead meat for you. There was the scraping sound of a body being dragged along packed dirt. Then the door slammed shut, and no more sounds seeped into my ears. My hands trembled uncontrollably as I eased the jar of

glowworms out from my shirt. My lungs worked overtime, sucking in and shooting out air. It was a strange feeling that coursed through my whole body. Intense heat, intense cold. Up and down, as if my body didnt know what season it was. For a moment the world around me vanished. I only heard my heart and my breath. I only saw the jittery glowworms. Then the world resumed, and I latched on to reality before insanity could paralyze me anymore. I did as Daniel had ordered, and I hoisted a sack on my back. I tried for the second, but it was too much. Twenty sticks would have to do. I crept through the hut. My toes were numb from the pinching boots, and one of the blisters had popped and now burned. Once at the door, I pressed my ear to it and strove to catch any movement or sound. Nothing came but the faintest patter of rain. I could do this. Daniel needed me. The Spirit-Hunters needed me. Cracking the door, I peeked outside. No one! So I ran silently, through the rain and up the hill. I didnt pause, look, or think. I just ran. When I reached the wagons, I skidded behind and peered out at the three buildings on the river. Where would the guards be? Was Daniel still alive? I couldnt leave him. Yes, it was my job to get the dynamite to Joseph, but it was also my fault Daniel had been caught. I was


the only person who could save him, and he would die if I left him here. In the space of a breath I made a decision. I did not consider it as carefully as I should haveI didnt consider it at all, really. I was giddy with a sense of invincibility. It ran through my arms and legs. This is a dangerous place. A dangerous place means an alarm. An alarm is something I can sound. An alarm will draw the guards away. I hid the sack and glowworms beneath one of the wagons and then watched the huts. No one appeared. With a deep breath and a silent prayer, I raced back down the slope. I went to the middle hut, but the door was locked. The rain picked up speed and intensity, and as I scooted along the outside wall, it filled my ears and sank into my clothes. It also masked the sound of my footsteps, and this time I was careful not to leave tracks. At the back of the building I tipped my head around the corner. Nothing. I bolted to the next hut. The closer I got, the more a caustic reek burned in my nose. Hadnt Daniel said this was the nitroglycerin hut? A pipe the width of a man and at least twenty feet long spanned from the hut to the river, and I knelt beside it. For several seconds I waited, allowing my ears to adjust to the raindrops on the river and my nose to accept the sharp nitroglycerin scent. There had to be an alarm in this building anything as explosive as Daniel had described would have some warning system.


A door groaned nearby, and I slung myself beneath the pipe. Please dont let anyone look my way. Three sets of red feet with a fourth setbrown and stumblingpassed by me. I bit my tongue and fought to keep my breathing under control. In the river, said the whiny man. His voice was muted, and I risked a glance out. The man had a rag pressed to his nose. Daniel must have gotten in a good punch. Come on then, said a gruff voice. Dont make us club ya first. Drowning is so much more fun ta watch. Drowning? I had to act now. I rolled out from under the pipe and darted toward the door or at least where I had heard the groaning sound of a door. It was at the center of the building, and once I reached it, I gave a quick lookthe men hadnt seen mebefore pushing inside. My hands shook as I moved within, but I kept them aloft and defensive. The room was longer than sixty feet in either direction and lined with chest-high vats. It was like the Centennial Brewery; but rather than the yeasty, sweet scent of beer, my nostrils were overwhelmed with the burn of acid. My breathing seemed loud and harsh, and the single light that hung in the center of the room hurt my eyes. But I prowled onward, seeing no one and hearing nothing but the gentle whir of pumps. My eyes watered from the sting of nitroglycerin, and I pulled my shirt collar up over my nose. A glance at the door for guards showed it was still shut. That was when I glimpsed the alarm.

It was a large bell with a handle for turning, like any fire alarm. It hung over the door, and it was too high up for me. Blast it! I sniffed and wiped my eyes. A stool was beside the nearest vat, so I scooted to it. It was heavy, meant to stay in one place, and as I lugged it backward, it scratched and moaned across the ground. Until my back hit something. I whirled around to find the glowing scarlet of a guard. The door was wide-open, and a shadowy face leered down at me. Before I could react, he grabbed me by the collar and shouted, Theres another. The man hauled me from the building to the river with no effort. Look! Its a girl. He snatched the cap off my head and then kicked me toward the other men. I tumbled to the muddy ground. I dragged my eyes to Daniel. His hands were bound, and a gag was stuffed in his mouth. Though one of his eyes was almost swollen shut, hurt and fury still burned bright in his gaze. The gruff man yanked me back to my feet, and the guard with the rag against his nose sauntered toward me. Youre a bit fleshy, aint ya? He licked his lips. Thats good. I like em fleshy. He thrust at me. I flinched, and the three guards guffawed. Well, the whiny one continued, tossing his bloody rag aside. Fleshy or not, a knife will go in ya all the same. He leaned close to me. The bones of his face were sharp, half his

teeth were missing, and he had the sallow skin of a consumptive. Got any weapons, darlin? Noyes. I swallowed, desperately trying to wet my mouth. I do have a weapon. A knife. Where? In my boot, I said. The man knelt, and as soon as his knees hit the earth, I moved. I heaved my left leg backward at the knee of the man behind me. My foot connected with the edge of the kneecap. His leg rotated and crunched inward. I pushed my hips against him, and he fell back. With my right leg I jerked my knee against the kneeling guards face and cracked his nose. It all happened so fasttoo fast for the third guard to react. I wormed away and barreled to the nitroglycerin hut. The nitroglycerin has to stay at seventy-two degrees, and that means it needs a cooling system. If I can change the temperature, the guards will have something else to worry about. I went to the first vat in the building. There was a thermometer with a knob marked do not adjust. Footsteps beat nearby. My time was up. This knob had to be it. With all my force, I turned it. It broke off in my hand. I had expected resistancenot for the damned thing to break! Shes turned off the water! I jerked around and found two guards, eyes enormous in the dim light.

We all reacted at once. I dropped the broken knob and scrambled from the vat. The two men bolted for the huts door. I dashed after them, away from the cloying stench and the now-broken knob. We skidded into the rainy night. The guards roared a warning down to the riversideIts gonna blow! Run!before fleeing toward the distant gate. Their red uniforms glowed in the drizzly darkness. I sprinted to the shore and scanned for Daniel. He was still bound and gagged, struggling to stand on the slippery grass. I dropped to his side and yanked the cloth from his mouth. Whatve you done? he asked, his voice rough. Blood oozed from a gash in his lip, and his left eye was now completely swollen shut. I tried to scare the guards. I reached for his bound hands. I-I just wanted to pretend. To act like I changed the temperature, but the knob broke. He jolted away from me. What temperature? The nitroglycerin. Did you turn off the cooling? The knob broke. What do you mean it broke? He blinked rapidly and tossed his head to get the rainwater from his eyes. Did you turn it off first? Yes. For a half second he stared. Then the whites of his eyes bulged, and he redoubled his efforts to stand. Get me up!

I need to untie Theres no time! Get me up! At the raw panic in his voice, my heart dropped into my belly. What had I done? Now! he shrieked, and this time I did as I was told. I heaved him to his feet, and we broke into a run. We sped over the grounds of the factory, past the nitroglycerin hut and up the long slope toward the gate. The factorys fence formed before us, growing higher with each pounding step but still seeming so far away. Faster! Daniel screamed, and I tried to accelerate. My feet slammed into the damp earth. I ran faster than Id ever run before, but even with bound hands, Daniel sprinted ahead. We reached the wagons. A voice in my mind nudged me to get the stolen dynamite. After all this terror and loss, I couldnt leave the prize behind. I veered right and surged toward the nearest wagon. I slid underneath. The sack was just where Id left it, dry and safe from the rain. Eleanor! I darted back out. Daniel was searching for me, his eyes wide and wild. Im here! I bounded toward him, the sack slung onto my back. We flew through the still-open gate and bore left down the long, empty road toward Philadelphia. I experienced it all in a half-numb frenzy. The slats of the factory fence blurred as I streaked past, the rain hit my skin

and soaked my clothes, the awkward weight of the sack banged against me with each step, and my lungs burned in desperation for more air. But nothing happened. No explosion, nothing. We reached the drawbridge a quarter mile away and still no fires or booms blazed in the distance. We stumbled to a stop inside the covered drawbridge, and I collapsed to my knees, certain I would vomit. The nausea rose heavy in my throat, and my bladder felt excruciatingly tight. My feet were raw from all the blistersthey had to be bleeding by now. Beneath the bridge, the Schuylkill River flowed lazily by. No carriages, no people in sight, only the gentle rain tapping the wooden roof. The calm of it all clashed with the chaos that still blazed inside me. Daniels breathing rasped nearby, and a glance showed him slumped to his knees. I crawled to him and began to pick at his ropes. You must notve, he said between gasps for air, turned the right knob. The words echoed without meaning in my brain. My wet clothes clung to my skin, and I shivered with cold and exertion. My single line of coherent thought was focused on the task of loosening his ropes, on mustering more dexterity into my numb fingers. Minutes ticked by, and at last the knots came free. I slid my hands beneath the ropes. Daniel flinchedI had stroked raw skin.

Youre hurt. My voice cracked. Im lucky thats all that happened. He pushed unsteadily to his feet. You could have killed us. But I saved you. No. He bent and hoisted me roughly to my feet. You almost killed me. I didnt! I tried to break free, but he pulled me closer. I told you to leave, he snarled. With his face only inches from mine and glowing white in the darkness, I could make out lines of fury scored into his face. His swollen left eye and bleeding lip only made him look more anguished. They almost killed you, I said hoarsely. And they almost killed you too! He dropped me, and I stumbled back until I hit the bridges wall. He thrust a finger in the direction of the factory. Do you know what should have happened back there, Eleanor? Do you? I just meant to scare the guards. I didnt mean to break the pump. The hot ache of tears burned in my throat. Joseph sent you as backupin case things went wrong. He strode to me, his hands bunching into fists. Well, things went wrong, and your job was to leave. To stay safe. And youd be dead in the river if I had. And what if you had died too? Did you think of that? He gave a strangled groan and stomped away, clenching and flexing his fingers as if trying to keep the violence to himself. You didnt think at all, did you? He whirled back around. Tell medid you?

Yes! I shouted. I did. And I made a choice! If youre worried about Joseph, then we should go. We have the dynamite, and we can still This isnt about Joseph or the dynamite. He spoke in a low growl. Leaving was your only job, Eleanor, so why didnt you go when I told you to? Because, Daniel. My voice was raw with bitterness and hurt. You . . . My voice broke. I swallowed to try again. Because, Daniel, no matter what you say, I know you would have done the same for me. His breath burst out. He tumbled backward as if Id slapped him. I used the moment to escape, shoving past him and slinging the sack onto my shoulder. Without a glance back, I sprinted through the bridge toward Philadelphia. My footsteps were loud and hollow. Tears fell now and mixed with the raindrops. But despite the sobs that hovered in my chest and threatened release at any moment, I refused to succumb. Joseph needed the dynamite, and Daniel was right: I had a job to do. Wait! I looked back. Daniel was rushing toward me through the rain. In half a heartbeat he was beside me and tugging me into his arms. His lips parted, but if to speak or to kiss, I never found out. The sky lit up as if a flash of sunlight pierced the night. A sound like thunder, black and heavy, cracked through the rain.

It was from the factory, and a shock wave shuddered over the earth. My knees, already weak, buckled from the impact. I fell onto Daniel, and we toppled to the ground. The factory had exploded. It was the impetus we needed, the reminder that life and death still hung in the balance in Philadelphia. In seconds we were back on our feet and bolting toward the city. Toward Joseph at the Centennial Exhibitionand toward the walking Dead.


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